San Jose Museum of Art, San Jose, CA,
31 July30 October, 2005
Reviewed by Sonya Rapoport, Berkeley,
Beverly Reiser, Oakland, California, U.S.A
After 200 years Dr Frankenstein must be
turning in his grave as his harem of fifteen
brides assemble to create new forms of
Beverly Reiser: I am still mulling over
how this show is uniquely female.
SR: The video of the huge rose inviting
us into the exhibition is certainly feminine.
BR Andrea Ackerman is the Georgia O'Keefe
of the computer graphics world. Rose
Breathing is an exquisitely composed
opening and closing of a flower-like structure,
easily the most sensuous and seductive
piece in the show. Although artificial,
this supremely organic structure embodies
the artificial brought to life.
SR Gail Wight's Sirens' installation
of large hybrid forms is soft and gentle.
BR: "The Sirens" is a comment on an organism's
ability to adapt and survive, indicated
in the notes on the wall. To successfully
adapt to a hostile environment is not
solely feminine but more often feminine
than masculine. From the show's notes
however, this adaptation may be a siren
song because it lulls us into thinking
that environmental degradation is benign
when in fact it is ultimately malignant.
SR : Well, let's begin with what you like
BR: My favorite work, "Shaken," by Camille
Utterback, is the snow dome with the little
LCD screen inside, the playfulness of
the figure becoming more agitated as you
shake the dome, and motionless as you
hold it still. Again the theme of human
interference brings the artificial figure
(woman) to life. The machine could be
training us to engage in the specific
behavior that needs to be activated. Maybe
artificial life is bringing the organic
(human) to life or at least motion.
SR: I see Shaken as a technically
tweaked paperweight, comfortable in the
hand and Christmas-like to the eye. It
may have a message but I'm waiting for
something more weighty.
BR: The black and white photos of robotic-like
sculptures are caught in emotionally evocative
poses. With wide eyed expression one sculpture
is studying it's own hands as if to say
look at these startling gadgets
SR .A bit of Hans Bellmer here. The structural
coils remind me of the tortuous cosmetic
ritual for lengthening female necks. My
favorite piece is the video Dream of
Beauty by Kirstin Geisler, an animated
androgynous nude descending the Duchampion
BR: Impossibly idealized body form presented
as an unattainable model for us all
SR The brochure notes "A tabula rasa
awaiting the projections of others' fantasies."
As the mannequin descends I see a stair
section flashing between her upper thighs,
suggesting the form of a penis.
BR Amy Myers' Fearful Symmetry,
an almost symmetrical drawing of a mystical
female icon, is elegant and abstract with
scientific references. The style is very
formal yet conveys continual flux.
SR: I wonder why she is in the show unless
she is a collective portrait of the brides
BR: Heidi Kumao's "Resist" is a set of
robotic legs (little girl size) with little
girl shoes. A sound sensor activated by
the visitor's voice brings the legs to
life, pushing away from the viewer with
great discomfort and defensiveness as
if pulling away from an attack. It is
one of the pieces that comes closest to
the Frankenstein theme.
SR: This strong
work is both cold and passionate.
BR: Erzsebet Baerveldt's 12 min. DVD "Pieta"
makes reference both to Christian tradition
and the Jewish folk legend of the golem.
The Madonna as artist tries to bring a
wet clay woman's body to life by manipulating
its limbs. The video keeps looping her
unsuccessful labors. The low res video
magnifies the sense of eternal desolation
SR: The intense but not compassionate
sculptor could have been Frankenstein
BR: In the original novel Frankenstein
by Mary Shelley, Frankenstein was
plagued by remorse and guilt Ouch
by Tamara Stone is about quilt and horror.
The visitor moves through a galley of
hanging stuffed rag bodies. Upon being
touched the bodies emit "Ouch." The notes'
promise of stories and songs would have
added richness and complexity .
SR: State of
the art technologies may give virtual
life to the rag dolls, but Tony Oursler's
low-tech doll installations communicate
BR: Eliza Redux: The Veils of Transference
by Adrianne Wortzel is a visit to
an artificial therapist's office. Is this
a comment on psychotherapy or simply flaunting
a clever computer program?
SR: Eliza deserves
a larger display
Conclusion: Brides of Frankenstein
is an original and provocative exhibition
that must have been as challenging to
expedite as it is challenging to absorb.